So, you have been invited to play an important role in your partner’s life. What can you do to be a good accountability partner?
As an accountability partner, you serve as a trusted companion who evokes your partner’s motivation to fulfill a commitment they have made. Accountability comes in different levels and exists in a variety of relationships, but you believe your partner desires change and will act in positive ways to grow.
Specifically regarding your partner’s use of technology, you can help them make better choices by removing secrecy and isolation. Observe their device usage and ask them about any behavior that goes against their responsibilities and commitments.
When someone asks you to be their accountability partner, you need to consider if you can fulfill this important role. This is a serious matter to your friend, and they have asked you to help them in a specific way. Take time to evaluate how suitable you are to serve in this way.
You might consider questions like these:
No one is perfect, and you do not need to be perfect to serve as an accountability partner. But evaluate yourself to determine how suitable you are to help your friend change and grow.
As an accountability partner, you might ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But take note that the first person to ask this question was not interested in caring for others.
A better question to ask is, “What can I do to love this person?”
The Bible says that Cain and Abel were brothers—both sons of Adam and Eve. But out of jealousy and rage, Cain killed his brother and left his body in the field. When God asked him where Abel was, Cain first lied and then scoffed, saying, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (See Genesis 4:1–10.)
Far from being his brother’s keeper, Cain had become his brother’s murderer, and God judged him for his wickedness. Even thousands of years later in biblical history, he retained his notoriety of evil (Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11). Cain is not someone to imitate in word or deed.
While you probably have no intentions of such violence against others, asking a question like “Am I my brother’s keeper?” often displays a dismissive attitude. It can show that you are disinterested in the other person’s well-being and have denied any responsibility you might have to help them.
But how does the Lord want us to act toward one another?
God tells us throughout the Bible to love our family, friends, neighbors, and even our enemies:
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:21)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40). But somebody asked the Lord about who qualifies to be his neighbor. In reply, Jesus told a parable about a man who fell among robbers, was beaten and left for dead, and then was ignored by two religious leaders who passed by. The man finally received help from someone who would normally have been his enemy.
To conclude the story, Jesus asked,
“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
And he [the man who had asked who was his neighbor] said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36–37).
Love resolves to act in the best interests of the one you love, regardless of who that person is to you. So, instead of asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” a better question to ask is, “What can I do to love this person?” You can come alongside your partner to help bear their burdens, talk over issues, and serve them sacrificially.
As an accountability partner, you have a tremendous opportunity to promote the well-being of your friend. They might have asked you to observe them, ask questions, and even give your feedback on their choices and behavior. Love for the other person should permeate your partnership, influencing your thoughts, words, and actions toward them.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35)
Remember this is not about you, but about them. The Bible says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). Act selflessly and seek the best interests of your friend. Use your influence with them to build them up and encourage them toward maturity and wisdom.
Let love of the brethren continue. (Hebrews 13:1)
Support your partner’s goals and values. It’s important to clearly define the goal before you agree to be an accountability partner. (If you cannot support your partner’s goal or action plan, you might want to help them reconsider their proposal or even withdraw from being their partner.) Encourage your partner to carry out their action plan to accomplish their goal.
You have great power in your words. Your words can build up and they can tear down. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Paul says that we must take control of our words:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
Listen to your partner and seek to gain understanding. Compassionately, gently, and graciously encourage, challenge, and remind your partner of the goal to be attained. Seek to build up your partner. Yes, this commitment will take some time, but the reward is worth it.
Moses served the nation of Israel for decades, but Joshua led them into the Promised Land. God commanded Moses to “charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he will give them as an inheritance the land which you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28).
Likewise, encouragement can strengthen your friend as they fulfill God’s commands for them. Help them reflect upon their performance, including problem-solving for the future. Pray for them. Find ways to support and encourage your friend. View your work as a part of God’s grace upon your partner’s life leading to their further sanctification.
Communicate clearly, directly, honestly, and respectfully. Regular, genuine communication is key to making your accountability partnership work. Be available and be sure to talk regularly in manageable amounts to keep current and targeted in accountability.
Instead of policing and judging your partner’s choices, assume the best about the situation. Accusing your friend might put them on the defensive and induce them to stubbornness. But asking a question appeals to their conscience and encourages them to evaluate their behavior in light of what they know is right.
Ask challenging questions and make critical but helpful observations. Probe failures not to embarrass them or assign guilt but to identify triggers and temptations and compose a plan for next time. Keep matters appropriately confidential unless other people need to know.
Here are some questions you could ask at various times:
If you see your friend making dangerous and damaging choices, warn them. Help them recognize the peril in their poor decisions. Plead with them to be wise and avoid the consequences of wrongdoing.
Often the most powerful way to present a rebuke is in the form of a question.
Sometimes a warning must give rise to a rebuke. Often the most powerful way to present a rebuke is in the form of a question. Remember when Peter withdrew from eating with the Gentiles, Paul began his rebuke with a question to draw out Peter’s hypocrisy: “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:14).
You should feel free to ask any question that you believe is relevant to your friend’s commitment.
Be trustworthy, available, willing, and consistently committed. Other than wanting to see your partner succeed, you should remain objective and free from personal interest in their success or failure. Realize this relationship may last for months or years (depending on what you’ve agreed to). Your partner needs you to stay all in.
Praise your friend for specific accomplishments like overcoming a tempting situation, maintaining a success streak, or expanding their original goal. Celebrate the effort and intention they have applied to fulfilling their goal.
Being an accountability partner does not empower you to control your friend’s life. Do not take ownership of their choices and do not make demands of them. Encourage your friend to excel for their own sake based on their own performance (see Galatians 6:1–4). They are responsible for what they do, while your role is mostly to warn them (see Ezekiel 33:7–9). Help your friend clarify the problem, identify solutions, and commit to a plan of action.
Focus positively on your partner’s successes and goals, rather than on their mistakes and shortcomings. Expect growing successes and reasonable failures along the way. Gently refuse to accept excuses and hold your partner up to do what they have agreed to pursue. Learn how to take sin and grace seriously.
Help your partner honor their commitment, help them evaluate how their choices affect their progress, and encourage them to keep moving forward. While you are not responsible for your partner’s success or failure, you can fulfill a significant role in helping them succeed.
Remember that asking the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” fails to demonstrate a heart of love for your friend. Instead of a callous regard for your friend, determine to encourage, warn, and honor them in your relationship.
You can have a great impact on your partner’s life by serving as a good accountability partner.